Just hours after an announcement that an agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on access for inspectors was imminent comes a new bit of news that could render the entire diplomatic process moot. As the Associated Press reports via the Times of Israel:
Iran announced Tuesday that it had delivered its first two batches of domestically produced nuclear fuel to a Tehran research reactor. The move comes on the eve of talks between Tehran and six Western powers over the future of the country’s nuclear program. The move is widely seen as an attempt by Iran to boost its bargaining position by exaggerating its nuclear technology.
Tehran had tentatively agreed to ship its enriched uranium abroad in order to produce such fuel in 2009. By moving the fuel rods to its own reactors, Iran will effectively put the kibosh on a deal by which it would send the fuel abroad.
While one has to applaud the sheer chutzpah of the Iranians in conducting this maneuver on the very day that IAEA chief Yukio Amano was in Tehran to negotiate with them, it does speak volumes about their utter contempt for their Western negotiating partners. Do they really think they can get away with this? But an even better question would be to ask whether the P5+1 negotiators led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are so desperate for an accord as to go forward with the talks even as the Islamist regime contradicts the terms of the proposed deal.
As this report reminds us, the West has actually been down this same road in 2009 when the Iranians agreed to a flimsy deal to ship out their nuclear fuel only to refuse to back away from the agreement once the West signed off on it. By moving the fuel to one of its reactors in this fashion, the Iranians are not just advancing their nuclear agenda. They are testing the mettle of President Obama and the international coalition he takes such pride in having put together.
That this would happen now when Western negotiators were attempting to pressure Israel to pipe down about its cynicism about the P5+1 talks is telling. The point of the leaks coming from both Washington and the negotiators is to signal Israel that it and not Iran will be the party that will be isolated in the coming months if it doesn’t stop criticizing the talks. But the fact that Israel’s cynicism is being justified by Iran’s actions may count for nothing if the West simply accepts this Iranian insult and proceeds to Baghdad for more negotiations as if nothing had happened.
Unless the president or Ashton publicly call out the Iranians on this treachery immediately, the ayatollahs will assume they will be able to do as they like no matter what deals they sign in the future. Despite the West’s optimism about a deal and the breakthrough with the IAEA, silence on the matter will be a virtual guarantee that Iran will move ahead toward a weapon regardless of the result of the diplomatic process.